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Monday, July 13, 2015

Captain Crankypants Almost Loses Our Dinghy in Tonga!

The wharf in Niuetoputapu is a high wall with a few tire "fenders" for the supply ship that comes once a month. A slippery boat ramp and small dinghy dock lie on the west side. Because of bow & stern-tied fishing boats, Jim insisted upon tying our dinghy by the tire fenders. The three of us would shimmy up the tires onto land. I worried because the supply ship, already 2 weeks behind schedule, was expected to arrive any day. But the captain preferred the tires.

Jim was invited to share kava with the local village men, a first for him. He took the inflatable and tied up to his favorite spot. Since kava is a male bonding thing (they drink the stimulating liquid from the same coconut shell and if enough is consumed one might feel very relaxed... or numb), Carolyne and I stayed aboard Hotspur. I was enjoying the calm weather, beautiful anchorage and quiet time when I noticed a bunch of children gathering at the dock. Their excitement caused me to turn-
and that's when I saw the giant blue supply ship, Sitka, entering the channel and heading right to the wharf where Jim left our dinghy.

Our inflatable was in peril! None of the local people seemed to notice it tucked under the tires. I envisioned the Sitka's massive steel port side crushing our dinghy against the cement wharf until she popped like a bug under a boot heel. Since Jim didn't have a radio (and who knows how much kava had been consumed at this point), I had to think fast!

Our Fatty Knees sailing dinghy (we call her 'Red') was tied to the side of Hotspur. I urgently summoned Carolyne, we lept into Red, and the sail was quickly hoisted. Carolyne, an expert with the Fatty Knees, tacked right up to the starboard side of the inflatable and I jumped in. It was low tide so monkeying up the tires to release the painter was a little less ladylike than normal. But, scuttling back down was even less ladylike when I made an error in judging the distance from the last tire to the dinghy. I clenched tightly to the rope as one leg balanced in a lunge position and the other extended behind me with toes grasping nothing but air. Meanwhile, the Sitka was getting closer. I had no choice but to lower myself further, hoping that I didn't fall backwards, and my lunge became a partial stretch with one foot stuck over my head. The audience of local children laughed and pointed. I don't recommend wearing a sarong for tire climbing, but time was of the essence. I was wearing underwear and that's all that mattered. At last, my toes made contact.

Carolyne had already sailed away to safety from the Sitka and I began to start the engine on our inflatable when Jim peered down at me from the wharf.
"What are you doing?", he asked me wearing an expression on his face like I was a moron.
"I'm saving our dinghy", I replied.
And with that, I revved the outboard and zoomed away, my sarong whipping behind me like a cape.
How he got home that evening I have no idea.

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